Civil society groups have been increasingly advocating for mechanisms to address issues that affect key populations and increased accountability.
Amplifying this development recently was Sannia Sutherland, Programme Coordinator, Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC). Sutherland was at the time delivering remarks at the recent regional meeting on AIDS convened by the Pan-Caribbean Partnership against HIV and AIDS [PANCAP] and the Pan American Health Organization [PAHO] in Kingston, Jamaica.
At the forum, Sutherland spoke of assiduous efforts being made to promote the legal empowerment of key populations to improve access to health and justice and reduce human rights violations with a view to promoting an enabling environment as we join fast track efforts.
Sutherland underscored that throughout the Caribbean, Community-based organizations [CBOs] and the communities they work in, are key players in the delivery of health services, as they have unique advantages in advocacy, demand creation and linkage of communities to services, building an understanding of what treatment, prevention, care and support are, and keeping governments, and donors accountable. However, she added, they often deliver services without stable and predictable funding or systemic linkages to formal public health facilities.
As such, Sutherland noted that building effective responses to priority health challenges with Key Populations, particularly in the face of the 90-90-90 commitments, is a key priority for all civil society groups that work in the trenches contributing to the HIV response in the region.
Through the 2016 Political Declaration on ending AIDS, the community of nations [Caricom] agreed to adopt a Fast-Track strategy that involves increasing prevention, testing, and treatment services while working to eliminate stigma and discrimination.
Central to this goal, has been the 90-90-90 Treatment Targets. This proposes that by 2020 at least 90 percent of people living with HIV infection should be diagnosed, at least 90 percent of HIV-infected patients should be on treatment and at least 90 percent of those on treatment should achieve virological suppression.
It is believed that by achieving the target by 2020 it will allow for a 90 percent reduction in AIDS-related mortality and HIV incidence by 2030 and help to eliminate this disease as a public health threat.
According to Sutherland, the goal could be achieved with the input of stakeholders. She related that current actions by stakeholders to end AIDS include: strengthening linkages throughout the Treatment Cascade, improving linkages to reach Key Populations, defining further and implementing task shifting and task sharing policies, considering the added value of CBO interventions at each step in the Treatment Cascade and reaching underserved youth.
“A range of human rights violations impact key populations,” stated Sutherland. “Multiple reports have documented how states have failed to protect key populations, from violence and other human rights violations, undermining their own HIV prevention efforts.”
She emphasized that despite the interventions, stigma and discrimination in health services is widespread, limiting key populations’ access to services.
“Weak justice systems and a limited culture of rights litigation result in impunity. More generally, the application of laws and policies allow the use of arbitrary interpretations of laws to affect operational policies, which in turn limit access to services,” Sutherland added.
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